Thursday, 4 December 2014

2014 - Andrew Tuttle

I haven't done this for a while. I have asked a bunch of people that have made a real difference in my opinion this year, whether it be me personally or in the year of music, to give me something that captured their year. Today I'm kicking off with Andrew Tuttle.

Andrew Tuttle is a regular man-about-town in Brisbane, is one of the best guys that has walked this earth, and I'm lucky to call him a dear friend. But that isn't why I asked him to write for us. He has been promoting music for years, working with Micronations and Room40, and playing most notably as instrumental project Anonymeye, taking acoustic and synthetic machinations to create fibrous tapestries of amorphous sounds through guitar, banjo, synthesisers and effects. The line between improvisation and composition is an organic sine wave, continually played with and built on. Tuttle retired the name after a decade of experimentation, but continues to play with form under his own name. After releasing an EP loosely based on Brisbane and the suburb in which he resides named after the postcode 4064, Tuttle released the excellent sound collage BickLack back in June, a twenty-eight minute sound collage that sews together a bunch of audio samples, improv runs and unreleased edits recorded last year in a mesmeric yet ebullient whole.

And to see out the year, he has given us ...from soapbox to Senate, a result of a work created
for OtherFilm's Institutional Capture festival last month.  The piece  is inspired by Gordon Brown, a gentleman of the Commonwealth (Australia via Canada and United Kingdom) who variously as a radical agitator, subversive, unionist and respected ALP politician served stints both as the President of the Senate in Canberra and at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in Boggo Road Gaol (where the performance was made) in the first half of the twentieth century. Through the use of digital synthesis, on-site field recordings and sparse acoustic guitar, …from soapbox to Senate conveys the oppressiveness of institutions (the prison system, the old Empire) and also the ability of people and buildings to transcend and rehabilitate the consequences of prior associations.

He has had a massive year, touring the US meeting with the likes of Dan Deacon and Matmos, but let's hear it from the man's mouth...

Andrew Tuttle – #tuttythumbsup 2014

Musically this year I have laid a bit low. A few one off performances but no extensive touring, a couple of mixtapes/commissions (including my first film score) but nothing new to sell at shows and a few exciting collaborations that are still in progress. I’ve been working on new music to release and tour in 2015, much of it coming from ideas I picked up through a creative development trip to the USA in September. As well as being a musician, my full-time and freelance work centres around music so I haven’t been short of great listening options this year.

List time: I’ve made a top ten albums, things that are not albums, and live sets list below. I could have easily made top twenty lists and/or cheated by sneaking album preview singles of albums that just missed out onto the ‘other’ list. My token non music list is my top five live sport games I’ve been to this year. Conspicuously absent in that list is my AFL team, as I was a bad luck charm to them the two games I attended in person.

#tuttythumbsup 2014 - albums

Blank Realm - Grassed Inn (BSR/Fire) 
Charlie Parr - Hollandale (Chaperone) 
clipping. - CLPPNG (SubPop) 
Ela Stiles - Ela Stiles (Bedroom Suck) 
Fennesz - Becs (Editions Mego) 
Grouper - Ruins (Kranky) 
Lawrence English - Wilderness Of Mirrors (Room40) 
Nathan Bowles - Nansemond (Paradise of Bachelors) 
Simon James Phillips - Chair (Room40) 
You Beauty - You Beauty (Second Empire/Rice Is Nice)

#tuttythumbsup 2014 - EPs/mixtapes/singles/etc

Austin Buckett - Sand Stems 1-7 (Room40) 
Brainbeau - 0.0001 Excuses (independent) 
Bong YZA - Rippers (Must Destroy Mankind) 
Gardland - Improvisations (RVNG Intl) 
Emma Swift - Emma Swift (Laughing Outlaw) 
Frank Fairfield - Duncan & Brady (Third Man) 
Holly Herndon - Chorus + Home (RVNG Intl) 
Horse Lords - Mixtape Vol. 3 (independent) 
These Guy - Human Language (Wood + Wire) 
William Tyler - Lost Colony (Merge)

#tuttythumbsup 2014 - gigs/sets

Matmos @ Sydney Festival / MONA FOMA / Howler, January 
Screaming Match @ Trainspotters, March 
Boss Fight @ Sonic Masala Festival, June 
Jonti @ The Zoo, August 
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Tivoli, September 
Blank Realm @ BIGSOUND, September 
Clipping + Stag Hare + Kevin Greenspon @ Goldrush Festival, September 
John Kilduff/People Like Us/Bob Wagner @ High Zero Festival, September 
You Beauty @ The Haunt, November 
OtherFilm - Institutional Capture festival @ Boggo Road Gaol, November

#tuttythumbsup 2014 - live sport

Queensland vs Western Australia, The Gabba, March 
Brisbane Roar vs Western City Wanderers, Lang Park, May 
Australia A vs India A, Allan Border Field, July 
Baltimore Orioles vs Blue Jays, Camden Park, September 
Queensland vs New South Wales, Allan Border Field, October

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Relaxed Policing with the LAPD

(Post by Fred Savage Beasts)

You know those times in the morning when you take the time to let the day come to you before getting up? That’s what this Los Angeles Police Department record is like. It’s the looking out through a window as clouds pass by taking no heed of anything you have planned. And you feel insignificant but in a good way; insignificant but nimble.

The tracks blow in and blow out leaving piles of leaves arranged in ways that look sort of like faces until they get moved on. There’s a kind of haze covering the whole thing, but it’s less like something blocking your vision than something tinting it with an ever so slight nostalgia. This might just be your new soundtrack for the train to work. It’ll get you thinking how nice it is to be up and alive to see the clouds (and whatever it is coming through them).

Out now through Forged Artifacts.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Strange Species on the Galapogos

(Post by Fred Savage Beasts)

Galapogos never got the three minute pop hook memo. Just like the weather here in Queensland never got the memo that we were meant to have conquered it. People poured out into the streets following one of the most intense storms in recent history - windows smashed, cars pock marked - scratching their heads. A lot of people will react the same way to the squalls, shifts and wails that span Galapogos’ new album Strange Species.

Made up of two sprawling jams, Strange Species traverses genre, style, ideas, and, in parts, the madness/genius divide. The record lilts and spills through guitar sounds from waves to jabs, finding and losing its way around sections of repetitive riffs and spoken (yelled and whispered) word. I’ve seen Galapogos live a bunch of times, and it’s when they are doing exactly this that they are at their best. This record is really a statement by its very existence. I listened through it during G20 and it made me more hopeful than any of the politicians. Maybe Galapogos did get the memo, they just chose to write their own manifesto in response.
Grab it from their bandcamp. And make sure you check out Dan’s blog Heavy & Weird for someone who does it right.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Sincerely Giving Both Halves, Grizzly or Otherwise

Sincerity is on trial. The Prime Ministers getting away with saying that they never actually meant what they said. The blinking mass appeal of shops already cramming their aisles with cheap plastic tinsel made in factories by people who have zero idea who Saint Nick even is. Music that has had every ounce of substance sucked from its crevices and replace with costume makeup. There are still people everywhere, but this place is a ghost town. Turn the telly on, bugeyes - you’ve got your very own window seat to hell.

And you can let that get to you until there’s nothing left of you to get.


You can make a sincere, heartfelt record that gnaws back at all the bullshit. And you can play it loudly around the country to see if anyone has a heart anymore. I don’t know what the thought process behind the naming Halves was but it strikes me as oceanically ironic. From the outlet this record sets out, not so much to traverse the seas, as swallow it. To take everything that’s outside and turn it inside; to jump around while it’s all in there just to shake the goddamn thing up a bit.

This record is as beautiful as it is aggressive. It’s harsh and mild and fucking Franz Kafka gets name-checked. And it’s an album, from start to finish. An actual, sit down and listen to this album. Forget the costume makeup and the clowns in parliament forget the tinsel waving from every orifice trying to sell you something useless, sit down and listen to this.

Australia is giving way to some kind of guitar band Renaissance and Sincerely, Grizzly just brought the cavalry. Halves is thoughtful, interesting, and sincere. A record worth listening to, one half after the other.

Out now through brothers Black Night Crash Records. Available with what may also be the greatest band shirt of all recent time.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Melbourne Fashion Cut from Cool Sounds

I saw Cool Sounds down in Melbourne a good few months ago now; pre-sax. I loved them. I love sax. And from what I can gather, it’s Snowy from Ocean Party playing it. This record, therefore, is awesome. White Wings cake cooked all moist right, awesome. It’s like a lullaby for drifting through the Melbourne streets while Katie Holmes inextricably follows you with a projector playing Endless Summer II and Stand by Me. Laze away to this, it’s a pretty damn good way to work up to your ten thousand hours.
Drift over and get a copy from Whalesmouth here.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

It's Desperately Useless Eating A Bleeding Moon

When getting right into the new Acid Baby Jesus release, I went through the Slovenly Records collection to see what else had been floating through their fetid waters recently (as I tend to miss a few the first time around). I stumbled across Desperate Living, the three track 7" that Memphis/San Fran garage gargantuans Useless Eaters put out in June (you can still get copies of it here). This kind of spat punk has remained fresh since Buzzcocks were just babes in the gutter, and the title track is a mainline-hit (the riff is a simple addiction, whilst the keys are especially 50s sci-fi glory). The other two tracks continue to lose the plot and steal minds - 'Dungeon' is a rusted spike through the brain, and 'I Think She Wants To Find Out' goes deep into the garage, neck on the mouldy couch with the stuffing leaking out onto the floor.

It's great but just a precursor to their new album (out through usual suspect Castle Face) Bleeding Moon. 'Dungeon' makes another appearance here, two seconds shorter and with a few flakes of rust chiseled off the edges - yet despite this, the album is both a mud map of new horizons for the band and an altogether different beast (as should be expected to be honest - the 7" is the perfect medium to be experimental, slapdash and loopy). A much more concerted effort has been taken on groove (think of better word...) whilst spicing the brew with an angular anxiety and aggression that has been largely missing in previous UE releases. 'American Cars' takes us straight away towards more elongated, heavy jams (at three-and-a-half minutes it's already three times the size of half their output), the constant snarl added a flinty rigidity that feels like Fu Manchu covering Wire through an MC5-and-mud-caked prism. 'Aftershock' is a sci-punk bubble blast recorded inside a Styrofoam shell, half-eaten burgers dripping down the walls; 'Retro Hoax' is throwing brass-knuckle punches out of the gate. 'Whip' eats a heavier load but could be an Eddy Current attempt at a dirge. The current profligeration of glam rock a la T-Rex to permeate garage inflections continues here on 'Out In The Night', yet there is still a sneering antipathy here, as if Seth Sutton and co. could either serenade you or glass you - most likely both simultaneously. It's a hedonistic miasma of all scuzz no fucks - 'Sitting On The Fault Lines', 'Walking In Circles' and 'Hidden Fees' (my favourite tracks) have that low rider bent to them, but also are spun out psych rock grunts that could just as well follow you home in the middle of the night... The thing is, and it's a Sutton trademark, Bleeding Moon never feels fatally dangerous - more deliriously so. Therefore you can justify losing your shit without wondering if someone was going to take your face off. Everyone wants to smash shit up then drink the bar dry, go home and do it again. No anarchy, just a good ol fashioned fuckaround. What more can a punk ask for?

Bleeding Moon is out now -  get it here - and in true manic Castle Face spirit, you can own it in their "Glass Half Full vinyl" (half white, half clear) - it looks amazing.

Selecting Acid For The Baby Jesus‏

Greek astral explorers Acid Baby Jesus are only interested in traversing the weirdest trances, the wildest expanses, all in their languid hallucinogenic way. Their languorous take on psych rock is what the band deem as the ONLY way to experience the psychedelic dream - that all other attempts are mere imitations. You can't help listen to Selected Recordings and hear the minds being altered here, a gauzy slipstream of eye rolling, head lolling expansivism. It does get heavy in parts - 'Row By Row' is a buzzsaw trudge that Ty Segall would be proud of - yet it is all measured, a slowed deliberation. Whether there is a rabid lurch like 'Who's First' or a lysergic dream spiral like 'Ayahuasuca Blues (Unmanned Drone)', Selected Recordings is all about a hedonistic collective getting high on their own supply and rocking out over it, on their own steam, at their own time. Plus you are likely to get some residual smoke just from hearing it, so can't complain really.

Selected Recordings (out through Slovenly Records) is out now - get it here.

PREMIERE - Beast & Flood's New Cassette Wellsonwell

Sydney trio Beast & Flood are on the cusp of releasing Wellsonwell, a two-track cassette showcasing the trio's burgeoning wellspring of angular muscularity, sinewy time signature shifts, shouty aggrandized epiphanies and thrashed-out zeal. A self-funded and constructed concern, the two tracks forgo the punchier immediacy of previous outings to underscore the band's propensity for off-kilter sonic exploration, taking well-worn post-punk paths before straying well off the beaten track. 'Flowers' somehow manages to be both sparse and high-strung, while the epic 'Cottonmouth' wraps up the intricacies of the band in one unfurling and overlapping sprawl (complete with mouse-pitch backing vocals).

Beast & Flood hit the road in December to flaunt Wellsonwell before knuckling down to record their debut album in 2015. Catch them:

Sat Dec 6 - Melbourne, Public Bar - with Worm Crown, Tangrams, Shaking Hell 

Monday Dec 8 - Canberra, The Phoenix - with Primary Colours 

Thursday Dec 11 - Sydney, The Lansdowne - with Yes I'm Leaving, Wives (ACT), Draining Pool 

Saturday Dec 13 - Brisbane, Trainspotters - with Woolpit, Blonde Tongues, Danyl Jesu 

Sunday Dec 14 - Newcastle, The Croat - with Litter Runt, Roland Major, King Single

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Glued To The Opportunist‏

Wow. This four-track 7" from Texans Glue is brutal - and weird. There is no doubt that this is a hardcore band with their feet stomping skulls as only they know how - caught up in their own maelstrom, you have a feeling that this crew don't care who or what is around them, as long as they are breakable and combustible. Get it here.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Exocomet Kill It

Exocomet are incredible. The self-titled album opens with 'Mercy Tongue' and that guitar reminds me so much of Clinic that it gives me goosebumps. That's a good thing by the way - Winchester Cathedral is one of my favourite albums from the past decade. The spikiness and incessant rhythms (aided and abetted by some excellent feverish drumming) is infectious - and to think this is all from a two-piece is phenomenal. The Bosnian ex-pats now call Brooklyn home - and if people don't start going rabid about these guys soon, there is something sore and sorry about this hollowed-out husk of a world. I'm sorry I haven't come to the party sooner - but now that I'm here, I'm never leaving.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hits From The Box #91 - Ghosting

This weekend I have been holed up, either doing coursework, writing reviews or sending out hundreds of emails about the fifth release from the Sonic Masala Records label, Ghost Notes' Moonlight State. To be honest, while it hasn't been active, it has been positive. But I need a break. I COULD go fly a kite or something equally as enthralling - OR I could write this week's Hits From The Box. Guess what I'm gonna do???

Delaware denizen Grace Vonderkuhn takes down the Colleen Green route, getting her garage rock kicks off her own bat, scuffing them up and blasting them out. There is more of a snarl in the delivery of 'Nowhere to Go' though which leans closer to the harder edges that Vivian Girls sometimes flirted with. It's an awesome track, at odds of the dreamy comedown of her other 'single' 'God Bless Your Soul', and it's this weighted juxtaposition of tone that makes it easy to see why she has taken the floor before Titus Andronicus and Cheap Time amongst others.

I'll readily admit that I wasn't expecting much from a band called Vampires, but this Winnipeg duo certainly knows how to discard the foul taste in the mouth that such a name may bring, instead ramping up the noise. The shifts from straight up rock altruisms to contemplative shoegazing are what sets their Every Kind Of Light EP up, and whilst the production here needs a bit more depth and grit, there is more than enough here to intimate a powerful live set.

Reading in England just got its narcoleptic opium dream in 'Beach Party Yesterday', the opening track off Songs For Jealous Lovers, the new EP from one-man skewed popster Viscous Liquid. Well not new - it came out in March digitally, with cassettes coming out in September for Cassette Store Day - but new to these virginal ears (who am I kidding...) Things are decidedly more upbeat with 'When I See You', taking a jump up from Spectrals' whimsical ruminations, 'If I Go' follows in the same vein with a slightly louder (yet no less sonically ebullient) outro, before 'Fun & Games' finds the middle ground, a percolated daydream. Nice stuff (if anyone knows more about this guy, please let me know!).

The dirt-caked garage blues that Bicycle Day dish out on their I Had A Place To Be LP definitely does not suck (despite what the Oakland trio might try to tell you). The ten tracks detail the trashy thrash that these guys do day-in day-out, a sandblasted jam from three dudes who love to play, get sweaty, get others sweaty, and drown in the mayhem that ensues. Sure it's been done before, but its this kind of slack-jawed and loose-limbed shambolism without pretension that I eat up. Buy the album on cassette here.

San Francisco quartet Phosphene have released a pretty great little album, also called Phosphene. This isn't a Black Angels spin-out though - the band delve into a warm indie fuzz that, like their name suggests, shines a light where often there is none. The melancholic Americana echo that permeates the likes of 'Crime' or 'Metric' is mesmerising, while they are also capable of picking up the pulse ('Go To Sleep'). There is a bucolic warmth that spreads throughout Phosphene that makes this an album, and band, worth savouring.

Leeds' Black Surf is where we will finish tonight. The four-piece have just started out, and are intent on creating the soaring indie fare that 90s college rock was steeped in. Especially the once-championed Weezer ('Army of Sheep' is something I'm sure Rivers wish he had written these past few years).

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Fair Maiden

Ellen Carey has crafted a strongly unique voice under the Fair Maiden pseudonym by taking familiar genre grafts and draping over them a gossamer sense of sparseness, tempered eloquence and eccentricity. The eight tracks are distilled through Carey's voice, ensuring there is a continual sense of the game shifting under your feet without your knowing. 'India' ebbs and flows like Bedroom Suck alum Ela Stiles with a Warpaint bent. This is thrown by the faux Christian folk battlecry of 'Lord' - this irks me a bit if I'm honest. There is an uneasy undertone that adds to the anguish. Then the country bounce of 'Wait For You' flounces in, and the disorientation continues. While the song is warm, amusing, and spot-on genre wise, it stands at odds with what's come before. And so it continues: the melancholic shuffle and groove of 'Poison'; the excellently stark, elegiac mantra of 'Sad Song'; the bluesy attitude (kept to a hush) of 'Blue Moon'; the Bobby Darin rush of 'Darlin'... Fair Maiden often feels like a patchwork, the disparate niches lacking a common through-line. But if you take 'Lord' out of the equation, there is a strange otherworldly dawn AM station vibe here, a curio of night-time driving through more innocent times. The threads - the brooding grooves of 'India', 'Sad Song' and closer 'Lady Of Fortune' juxtaposed by the nostalgic twitches of 'Wait For You', 'Poison' and 'Darlin'. The sound is fleshed out by some creative collaborators (Steph Crase, Liam Kenny, Joel Carey), but it is Ellen’s mesmeric presence that captivates and ensures such eclecticism remains anchored. An intriguing yet rewarding listen.

Grab Fair Maiden here. It's a little belated, but the album launches in Melbourne next Friday November 21 at Dane Certificate's Magic Theatre, supported by Sarah Chadwick, Totally Mild and Moon Dice.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Today is a special day, as we unearth Moonlight State, the sublime new album from Brisbane instrumental ensemble Ghost Notes.

Oppression takes many forms. Drudgery and alienation seem an ever-present. Sometimes overt, but mostly subtle; we bury ourselves under our daily practices.

Moonlight State is Brisbane instrumentalists Ghost Notes’ third album. Largely written and recorded during the same period as the band’s previous release, Hidden Horizons, the new album occupies an altogether different space to its twin. Where that record wandered through bright and distant open lands, Moonlight State is firmly set amidst the dim claustrophobia of our own backyard, while still reaching for an inherent beauty.

Littered with references to the humid, hazy shadows of their hometown’s recent past - none more deliberate than the title track - Moonlight State is an album for present history; for the return of ‘Pig City’, the soundtrack to the G20 and VLAD and unchecked political power. The single ‘Freedom Scouts’ furthers the theme, taking its name from a local survivalist militia, while ‘Split Solitary’ harkens back to the darkness behind youth spent in idyllic rural areas. Here are the murmurs from sun-beaten sheds looking out through rust spots in corrugated iron.

Moonlight State represents a musical end point for Ghost Notes. Designed from inception to be a long-term project, the band have reached their most dynamic and bombastic with this album. The music demands to explode and destroy, and yet even at its most unhinged Ghost Notes repeatedly turn inward. The band’s signature musical spaciousness remains, but their Morricone-meets-Bitches Brew instrumental rock moves in darker territories on this album, from melancholy folk eulogies to noise-rock freak-outs. Nowhere is this breadth of sound more evident than on the album opening ‘Vanishing Point’, a 13-minute epic that travels through starkness, Steve Reich-esque polyrhythms, Kraut-rock freakouts and Sabbath grooves before finding itself back where it began only with a newfound sense of triumph.

You can buy it now!!! Ghost Notes will launch the album in Brisbane on Friday December 5 at The Bearded Lady, with support from other excellent acts Danyl Jesu and Pleasure Symbols.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Searching For Black Blooms

I thought I had written about Black Floral, the album from Middlesborough UK native Detective Instinct. I was listening to this non stop when I was smoking and packing up the house in July before coming to the UK (it came out through Sickroom Records around then). I then stupidly left it amongst the vast record collection of my flatmates' (as well as Harmony's second album Carpetbombing - so bummed...)

Anyway, today I was looking for something to get me through the grind of marking some work, and I stumbled across some Trumans Water. Great band. But it also reminded me of the songs that Kevin Branstetter sung on Black Floral, 'Merchant Vessel Elision' and 'Tortillas'. You see, the album is a tale of two sections, interlaid into one - the artist created the warped aural groundswell of kraut/paisley psych/synthesised warp and then threw the hellgates open for esteemed lyricists of the underground to sing/speak/murmur/hum over the top. So whilst you have the erstwhile and politically witty (and whittled) lyrics of GW Sok over 'ABC & She' and 'Crack Attack', you have the suitably weird Jad Fair shuffling around in his pastel-blazed bathrobe in 'Black Floral I' & 'Black Floral II'; the spoken word ruminations of Mike Watt ('The Sum Of A Son', 'From Calais To Dover'); the ethereal-as-microfiche wanderings of Karen Schoemer (especially the discombobulated echo/head-on-a-megascreen imagery that come to me during 'The Architect of Negative Space')... My favourite tracks though are the ones that include Branstetter and Country Teasers' Leighton Cook, because they are as unhinged as you would expect - like Ian Dury, but reimagined by Harmony Korine where he lives in a council flat with Shaun Ryder and the Sleaford Mods scungebuckets. Seriously, 'We'd All Love Wheels' is one of my favourite songs of the year, hands down. It has no right to, really, but there it is.

It's a weird record for sure, but it doesn't feel like a slapdash effort, a patchwork of past glories, a harried compilation of similar nut not necessarily likeminded souls. Black Floral works because it creates its own world and wholeheartedly drags you into it. Like the floating abyss that the unsuspecting Glaswegian men fall into when pursuing Scarlett Johanssen in Under The Skin (still unsure I agree its the brilliant work people say it is, but it is an arresting experience - but that is by the by), Black Floral has you ensconced in its world, a living organism within a viscous organism, melding together, fusing as one, an eternal nightmare and dreamscape. In short, it's weird, beguiling, stupid, funny, thought-provoking, and brilliant.

Grab Black Floral here.

Novels In The Dunes

I have somehow missed the myriad delights that solo guitarist Sarah Lipstate has put into the ether under her Noveller moniker, but with Fantastic Planet due out on Fire Records next year, there is no excuse. She has been around since 2005 though, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Plus she has collaborated with the likes of Lee Ranaldo, Cold Cave and Parts & Labor, so her explorations of the electric guitar form is well versed and admired. And my first taste of it rose the hairs on the back of my everything. The haunting ethereal grind on album opener 'Into The Dunes' is spacious, dark, gritty - it's as if Lipstate has taken some of the contemplative latter-day musings of Dylan Carlson, run it through a crystallised synthesiser, distilled it in a modular vacuum, headed back to 1968 and handed the results to Stanley Kubrick. It could go for seven times the size and still be as astrally hypnotic. Fantastic indeed.

You can pre-order Fantastic Planet (on delectable aqua vinyl) here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A Quiet Rumination On Blunt Black Metal

I wrote the below review on Dean Blunt's Black Metal for The Quietus, but due to a mix-up it couldn't be run. I thought it should get out there anyway. So, enjoy.

Dean Blunt’s Black Metal follows in the manipulated lo-fi footsteps of The Redeemer - that is, it’s a dedicated construct designed to obfuscate. Yet this journey is higher, longer, and somehow both more lucid and opaque. Opener ‘Lush’ sounds like a melancholic Dev Hynes song played through a Walkman with slowly frying AA batteries. The strings here toy with indie pop treacle, while the weedy production strips away any ebullient satisfaction one might glean from the exchange. This approach lends Black Metal that sun-warped cassette aesthetic, which then bleeds into the other conscious decision to load the tracklist into two overt types, The first half focuses on lysergic dream folk meanderings, all languid and hypnagogic in a VHS-tape-lost-in-the-back-of-the-closet way. A steel-wool scoured lushness pervades these tracks, permeated with lethargic guitar and a dulled echo, like the melancholic ruminations of flagging and failing relationships from a man who is spiritually punch-drunk, mentally broken and suffers from tinnitus. The despondent ’50 Cent’ uses a simple drum machine beat as the most pristine element, the fulcrum that a percolating guitar line and Blunt’s roughly echoed vocals, interlaid with Joanne Robertson’s ghostly delivery from the depths, hovers around. Each of the first five songs is short, playing like excerpts, compositions where the gist of the idea is achieved so the remainder is faded out. “Molly & Aquafina” is the closest interpretation of a “song” in this context, a discombobulated folk duet between Blunt and Robertson, played from the passenger seat of a car gliding through twilit streets of East London, the weight of primordial dissolution weighing on the shoulders.

The thirteen-minute ‘Forever’ changes everything. From its elongated running time to the gradual bleed of glitch, Robertson’s lyricless vocals soaring prophetically over this bioengineered landscape, and the subtlety of piano and organ relegated to backdrop tempo, ‘Forever’ fuses the lovelorn sojourns before now with the synthetic stuttering of electronica, creating a collage of alienated emotion further augmented by a sinuous saxophone solo. The tracks hereafter are more “familiar” (if such a word works in Blunt’s world) – ‘X’ offers an ambient guitarscape before permutating into a skewed New Wave meditation; ‘Punk’ is a dub-lite mantra (another prescient line is delivered here – “I’m not who I'm meant to be”); ‘Country’ is a metallic scree of relentless sinuous noise; ‘Hush’ brings back Blunt’s monotone rap. ‘Grade’ melds it all together (including sax interlude).

The black, blank cover art speaks volumes. In Black Metal Blunt has crafted some beautiful, heartfelt songs before scrubbing them of publicly-perceived purpose, preferring to blanche everything in indistinctness before submerging the result in macabre left-turns of unease and nightmare-quality ambiguity. The result is a testament of an artist who isn’t deliberately subversive as much as intrinsically so. Blunt imbues universal themes with beguilement and disquiet: the artist taking the essence of Goya and Bosch and melting them onto acetate, letting the remains flow over the cookie-cutter boundaries of well-established and easily-digestible genres. Consider Blunt’s oeuvre as muzak for Purgatory.

Nevertheless, by corralling all of his idiosyncrasies and approaches into one record, the eclecticism and perversity of previous releases are ironed out. Warped cohesion somehow dilutes the broth. The beautiful thing about Blunt though is that no matter how uneven, dichotomous or flat people may find Black Metal, the anticipation for what comes next will always remain high – and nothing can be taken for granted. While out of context, when Blunt croons on the excellent ‘Blow’ “when I run away/ain’t nobody gonna find me”, the truth of such an idea of Blunt rings loud and clear. We never know the “real” Dean Blunt; we will never know him; we will never need to.

Black Metal is out now on Rough Trade.

Narrow Lands

Guten morgen kinder! Just thought I would throw this up here. It's the full set of Sydney noisehounds Narrow Lands from our festival back in June. Drunk In Brisbane - indeed. More news to come, but...let's do this again, yeah?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Giving A Shandy Toast To The Stranger Nallo (PREMIERE TRACKS)

It's a matter of hours now before Minneapolis four-piece Nallo releases Breather, their follow up LP to 2012's Mechano & The Trees (that I took a shine to). Breather comes out tomorrow, and it is a gold nugget of an album for those lucky enough to discover it - and now that I've blabbed, I hope the stocks rise by one or two people (I think that readership still exists???)

We are pretty stoked to be giving you an exclusive taste of the album with the one-two gullet punch of 'Shandy' and 'Stranger', a diptych that are entwined in their country twang, slow burning elegance and rugged expulsions of noise. The last two minutes of 'Stranger' has me thinking of the Spook Houses and Piles of the world - bloody good company to be keeping I reckon. Pre-order Breather (and listen to a few more choice cuts off the album) here.

Pontiak Revolves Underneath Us Like A Snake

The Carney brothers are back! Well they never went away - in fact Pontiak is as busy as ever. With the release of Innocence earlier this year, and their heady involvement in Heat Leisure (more on that later), the trio are dropping this 7" Revolve through Portuguese label Revolve Records. It's a true slowburner, the opposite to the frenetic garage psych of their album and the more spaced jams of previous releases - a languid, lethargic lounge crawler. It reminds me of a red velvet couch in a candlelit tavern, the flames flickering, the whisky entombing the soul, the tumbler clasped in the hand, alone with one's ragged regrets and salted chagrin. In short, it's giving me chills. Pre-order the white vinyl release here.

Seeing The Ocean In Soft Focus

There are many reasons I love The Ocean Party's fourth album, Soft Focus. I have been a fan since 2012's Social Clubs; I put on their Brisbane leg of their launch of 3rd album Split (and first on Spunk Records) Split. I have even had the enviable pleasure of sleeping on the floor of their Osborne Street premises in Melbourne (alas, no more - the boys have flown the coop). The five piece are a great group of guys, who love their beer, their taylors, their VHS collection and their Snood. In fact, back in May when I was in Melbourne for the Gazar Strips Sparkling EP launch, I heard a couple of tracks that eventually made the album, and the lusher, "lounge" sounds, the pastel notes, it all seemed like a confident step in the right direction - a new dawn. It was The Ocean Party in soft focus (yes, the album title works incredibly well here). But from the warm opening moments of 'Went Out', the first song on Soft Focus, I knew without doubt that they were onto a winner. The trumpet is warm, sonorous, enveloping. The jangle doesn't feel lazy or commonplace (not saying that this has ever been an Ocean Party aesthetic), but an effortless extension to Lachlan Denton's warm, laconic vocals - a Go-Betweens sojourn down Brunswick lane. It's a warranted and welcome comparison. Not many songs - on this album, or in 2014 - reach this height of wide-eyed, creaseless gaiety and relaxed, free abandon. All worries wash away. It's an incredible thing. There is more to Soft Focus than this 3:16 minute corker though. Single 'Wading In' comes next and it's following in the laconic slipstream of its predecessor, with added synth and lazy calyspo New Wave drum machine... Yes, I could see the boys decked out in white suits and loafers. But that countrified swagger that imbues 'Taylors & Sharps' and the genre tinged shift is welcoming. 'Head Down' has that watery guitar warble but keeps up a more energetic gait; 'Bed As A Grave' takes a melancholic dive (even with Ashley Bundang's golden backing vocals). Nothing truly develops into anything other than an amble though, and remains inoffensive. But here's the thing - I have stated in the past that there is nothing more offensive than inoffensive music (and I maintain this wholeheartedly). But Soft Focus somehow becomes the exception that proves the rule. The word of the day here, as drab and lazy as it may be, is "warm" - the production is sublime and glows, lending these eleven songs with elegance and wondrously humble gravitas; and the shifting vocals (all boys are heavily involved) remains a effortless yet horizon-broadening masterstroke. But the sombre outro 'Still Stuck Out Here' probably sums it up best. Soft Focus shows that despite the myriad musical outlets these guys have, it's as a collective unit that they truly grow - they are pushing themselves further from shore, they are getting wiser, and it's a matter of time before everyone notices what a treasure they have on their doorstep. And as Denton murmurs to that brooding Cars-esque score (complete with lush sunset synth and sax solo), 'Ill be still out here in ten years or so, just wait and see.' I bloody hope so.

Soft Focus is out now through Spunk and Jigsaw Records.